The semiconductor business is changing so fast, it’s hard to keep track.
According to a report in Equities.com, US-based semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries Inc. broke ground this week on a new US$4 billion fabrication plant in Singapore to help meet the soaring global demand for chips.
In a press release, GlobalFoundries, owned by Abu Dhabi’s state-owned fund Mubadala Investment Company, said its new fab is expected to begin production in early 2023 and will add about 1,000 jobs in Singapore.
The facility is being developed in partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board and with “co-investments from committed customers,” the company said.
In a statement, GlobalFoundries’ chief executive officer Tom Caulfield said, “Our new facility in Singapore will support fast-growing end-markets in the automotive, 5G mobility and secure device segments with long-term customer agreements already in place.”
“GF is meeting the challenge of the global semiconductor shortage by accelerating our investments around the world. Working in close collaboration with our customers and the Government of Singapore is a recipe for success that we are pioneering here and looking forward to replicating in the US and Europe,” Caulfield said.
The ongoing semiconductor shortage has been compounded by several factors, including a pandemic-related surge in demand for consumer electronics coupled with government-mandated factory shutdowns that crimped chip production and led to output issues across various industries, the report said.
The ongoing semiconductor chip shortage is now expected to cost the global automotive industry US$110 billion in revenue in 2021, according to the latest analysis by consulting firm AlixPartners.
The forecast is up by 81.5% from an initial forecast of US$60.6 billion, which the New York-based firm released in late January when the parts problem started causing automakers to cut production at plants.
The shortage has highlighted the importance of foundries — companies contracted by semiconductor firms to build chips — with many investing billions in new production lines and upgraded equipment to meet the demand.
GlobalFoundries also announced plans to invest an additional US$2 billion to expand capacity at its existing factories in Singapore, Germany and the US.
Caulfield knew a crisis was brewing when he started getting frantic calls from big automakers just before Christmas, he told The Washington Post.
“Tom, you’re killing me. You need to make more,” Caulfield recalls the auto executives saying. “Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler-Benz, Fiat Chrysler, GM — every one of them became my new best friends.”
The Santa Clara, Calif.-headquartered company did its best to ramp up production for car manufacturers at its three big factories in the United States, Germany and Singapore, Caulfield said.
But its efforts alone couldn’t fix a supply problem that had been building for months as an unprecedented surge of demand far outstripped supplies across the globe, leaving manufacturers of all kinds in the lurch.
The shortages have forced General Motors and Ford to slash production in three states as well as in Canada and Mexico, threatening jobs at the auto companies and their suppliers.
The average automobile has about $350 of semiconductor content, with nearly 80% of that in microcontroller units, analog and power.
The White House has already leaned on big chip producers and their host nations, including Taiwan, to increase output, but governors from eight states have urged President Biden to “redouble those efforts,” warning of a “growing list of automakers, suppliers, and dealers negatively affected by the shortage.”
According to TrendForce, GlobalFoundries is the fourth biggest foundry by market share and revenue in the world.
It has about 7% market share, behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (56%), Samsung Corporation (18%) and UMC (7%).
You have an entire global electronics supply chain that is dependent on Taiwan, and it’s 100 miles offshore of China,” said Stacy Rasgon, a semiconductor analyst at the financial services firm AllianceBernstein.
“Given everything going on with geopolitical tensions, that’s becoming a strategically untenable position.”
In a statement, Beh Swan Gin, chairman of the Singapore Economic Development Board, said the organization is “committed to partnering” with industry leaders like GlobalFoundries “to address the global demand for semiconductors, especially in growth areas such as artificial intelligence and 5G.
“The semiconductor industry is a key pillar of Singapore’s manufacturing sector, and GlobalFoundries’ new fab investment is testament to Singapore’s attractiveness as a global node for advanced manufacturing and innovation,” he said.
Sources: Equities.com, The Washington Post, TrendForce, CNBC, AllianceBernstein, McKinsey.com, Singapore Economic Development Board